It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.
I'm back. <INSERT PERTINENT DOCTOR WHO QUOTE HERE>.
Oddly, I haven't missed much in my absence, since not many new shows have started, while plenty have wound up or have taken an Easter break. In fact, I've had the time to rewatch all of Marvel's Iron Fist, as well as an episode of The Champions.
Iron Fist actually held up quite well on a second viewing, although it turns out not to have any hidden depths at all that I missed and the fight scenes do often look quite bad on a bigger screen. But it's still hugely enjoyable, the soundtrack's truly marvellous, and it and season 1 of Daredevil are so far the only Netflix Marvel shows that I've even been inclined to rewatch.
Next up, of course, is Marvel's The Defenders, which will be arriving in August during TMINE's annual break. I presume it's because they don't want me to comment on the fact that Daredevil is wearing Iron Fist's costume in the teaser trailer. Too late, boys. Too late.
As well as the regulars, I've also had time to play catch up on a few shows that I'd got behind on. That means that after the jump, I'll be looking at the final episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Good Fight and Imposters, as well as the latest episodes of The Americans and The Magicians, the return of Doctor Who and the back end of the second season of The Man in the High Castle.
Fortitude I'm now working on so I should have a round-up of the final episodes next week. I'll also be a lot further along in Midnight Sun, which I'd probably have watched already if the upgrade to the Sky Go iOS app hadn't resulted in the download rights on the whole series being revoked for some odd reason, meaning I couldn't watch any of my previously downloaded episodes while I was away.
The Prison Break revival started while I was away, I know, but frankly, I suspect the show's time has gone and I've had enough Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell of late on DC's Legends of Tomorrow, anyway.
Some time in the next few days, I'll be taking a look at ABC (Australia)'s Hugo Weaving-starrer Seven Types of Ambiguity, which rather than being a documentary about literary criticism is a sort of Rashomon-ish look at a child abduction from the different points of view of all involved. However, awkwardly, as well as being only six rather than seven episodes long, each episode is from a different character's perspective (I think), so I'm unsure whether I have to watch the whole thing or not.
I did try to watch The Son, AMC (US)'s mini-series Western that stars Pierce Brosnan. Potentially, it sounded quite interesting, with Brosnan playing an old Texan cattle baron during the First World War, while we get flashbacks to his life growing up among the Comanches as a boy after they kill his family. However, it's AMC, so amazingly slow and boring, so I didn't even make it through the first episode.
I also gave one other show a try:
Return of the Mac (US: Pop)
Yet another one of those TV shows in which celebrities play 'themselves' with hilarious results (cf Lopez, Donny!, et al), this sees former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre playing a version of himself who wants to do serious acting. Unfortunately, no one else wants him to do serious acting, so when he pitches with his agent to a female-led network, apart from the drooling by the 30- and 40-somethings who used to worship him when they were young, he has to endure the fact they only want to offer him a late night talk show. Can you imagine?
Produced by fellow New Kidder Donnie "Not Mark" Wahlberg and Jenny "Vaccines are Evil" McCarthy, who also cameo as "themselves", the show struggles to do much beyond set up very easy jokes about reality TV, celebrities, McIntyre and his career, without coming close to even Donny!'s low bar in finding a remotely interesting gimmick to supplement these low balls.
About the only thing it does well doesn't even involve McIntyre, as it's all about his wife's work with a gloriously over the top stylist. January Jones cameos for all of a minute and is better than everyone else in the cast, despite being January Jones. That should tell you something.
Shows I've been watching but not recommending
DC's Legends of Tomorrow
While I can't in all good conscience recommend DC's Legends of Tomorrow, this season has shown both a huge improvement over the first season and an embracing of outright silliness and fun that the other CW superhero shows could really learn from. The fight against the 'Legion of Doom' gave us a worthwhile set of villains and the shake-ups in the crew roster gave us a group that was more enjoyable to follow than season one's.
True, there was never really a great episode, characters were barely developed except in the most obvious ways and plots were frequently downright stupid, but the whole thing had moxie. One I'll be sticking with next year, which I doubt I'll be saying about any of the other CW superhero shows.
Reviews: First episode; fourth episode
Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
10x1 - The Pilot
As we embark on the final Steven Moffat season, heading for the Circle of Hell that Chris Chibnall's Doctor Who will 90%-inevitably be, it's nice to say at least we had a good start. While not exactly revolutionary, invoking everything from Shada through to Rose, with a stop off at Destiny of the Daleks of all things along the way, the episode's introduction of the new companion worked nicely, the new set-up for the Capaldi Doctor was apt and actually made him likeable (we're in the late Hartnell stage of things at the moment, after all…), and there was a warmth to the episode that's been missing from Who for quite a while. Plus I actually liked quirky Bill, unlike the Teflon-coated Clara.
Imposters (US: Bravo; UK: Virgin)
1x9 - Ladies And Gentlemen, The Doctor Is In - 1x10 - Always Forward, Never Back
Again, just like DC's Legends of Tomorrow, not a season that I would recommend, but one that was surprisingly enjoyable. I'm not sure if the show was trying to say something, other than that human beings may only be who they are because they choose to define themselves that way and so can change if they redefine themselves. But as a piece of frothy entertainment, that always kept the viewer on their toes while giving us heroes and villains you could both love and hate at the same time as they swapped between roles, Imposters did really well. The final con of the season played out over the two episodes was very nicely executed, too, even if it was a bit sub-Leverage, but it also felt more believable than Leverage at the same time.
Reviews: First two episodes; third episode
The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)
Well, I finally got round to watching the final 70% of the second season and I have to say… it was all right. Nothing remarkable and no real advancements made on the first season, except as usual in the first episode and the last episode, with much treading of water in between. The show's biggest mistake was to try to make the bland supposed heroes of season one a little more interesting by giving them more to do. This partially succeeded at least, but it was at the expense of the most interesting characters (Rufus Sewell, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), who got nothing much to work with except in the first and the last episodes; the rest of the time, they got to worry a bit about their families but that was about it.
The show is at least reasonably faithful to the spirit of the book in that it spends less time on science-fiction ideas and more time examining what everyday lives would be like in such an alternative universe. Yet despite the huge potential of the backdrop, there's not much more added this season that wasn't in the first season.
Still, Sebastian Roché was a very nice addition to the cast this season and the revelation of the Man in the High Castle's ultimate reasoning was quite Dickian (cf Minority Report). But I can't help but feel a far more interesting season could be made than we've had so far. Maybe the change in showrunner for season three will be the catalyst.
Reviews: first episode; first season
The recommended list
The Americans (US: FX; UK: Amazon/ITV)
5x5 - Lotus 1-2-3 - 5x6 - Crossbreed
Hmm. As usual, it's bafflingly hard to say what The Americans is ever actually about. It's quite clear what the plotlines are, who's doing what and even why, but each episode really just exists as capsules to carry the characters around to face existential concerns. Where it's all leading is a complete mystery.
Case in point: these two episodes. It's clear what the agriculture plotline is doing for Keri Russell's character, but why is it doing it? Similarly, the Page stuff is obvious, as is the Stan plotline and the new arrival from Russia (spoilers). But why is it all happening? You have to be a secret agent to work this stuff out.
The Good Fight (US: CBS All Access; UK: More4)
1x8 - Reddick v Boseman - 1x9 - Self Condemned - 1x10 - Chaos
What I initially wrote off as a simple rehash of The Good Wife quickly became one of the shows I looked forward to most each week. A show that felt like it had new and insightful things to say about US law and legal proceedings in the Trump era, The Good Fight managed to navigate that spin-off territory well, bringing in guest characters from the mothership while creating a decent roster of its own.
Unfortunately, while the season finale maintained the general high quality of the season legally, it was absolute nonsense when it came to cybercrime, positing that a top DOJ lawyer would take a USB drive that he knew contained malware and put it into his own computer and that the malware could then somehow spread behind 'the government firewall' to infect some SCADA systems running a city electricity grid. FFS. Where's Mr Robot when you need him?
There also didn't seem to be much resolution or development of the storylines for anyone who wasn't white, which given it's a show about a minority-owned firm is an odd choice to say the least.
The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: 5*)
2x11 - The Rattening - 2x12 - Ramifications
The Magicians is almost as mystifying as The Americans but in much different ways. However, the latest two episodes have pointed us in the direction of answers at least, as we find out where a whole bunch of storylines have been going and why. It's a little more serious than it was before, as well as a little more touching, and it's nice to see the Renard storyline is actually going somewhere at last. The Vancouver reference was genius, too. Fingers crossed for the finale!
Episode reviews: First episode, third episode